In spite of the best efforts of a three rider 'suicide' break of the day - which went after only two kilometres - stage five of the 2012 Eneco Tour ended in a bunch sprint in Aalter, having started the day in Hoogerheide in Holland. And in spite of the best efforts of the organisers to come up with a route which flirted with the North Sea, the flags hung limply and the potential crosswind-generated carnage never materialised.
Instead there was blazing sun and 25 degrees and Dimitri Muravyev (Astana), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Sjef De Wilde (Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda's) were left to broil. They worked away, got a load of television time and a not very encouraging 5-30 minute maximum lead after only 50 kilometres, at which point you would have thought they would just have sat up, since the job was clearly doomed.
In fact, Delage did just that. The prospect of pointlessly busting a gut for another 130 kilometres clearly didn't appeal. But for the others, TV time is TV time, so they ploughed on, all of them knowing that the end would come later rather than sooner.
From 70km out, with the lead fluctuating between three and four minutes, Omega Pharma went to the front, aided by Argos-Shimano and it was just a matter of time before the break was put out of its misery. A bunch gallop was a certainty, partly because of the route profile and partly because of the bonus seconds on the line which may yet determine the outcome of this Eneco Tour.
Inside the final 20 kilometres it seemed like every team had a go to set up their chosen rider - apart from Euskaltel, Saxo Bank and Movistar - but in the chaos of the final kilo, Giacomo Nizzolo of RadioShack went for the proverbial long one and, although Roelandts passed him, it happened about five centimetres after the line.
Sadly for the Belgian masses and in spite of Roelandt's right fist punching the air, the win was awarded to 23-year-old Nizzolo, who thought he had been beaten and dropped his head in disappointment as Roelandts punched the air.
"I thought I had lost," the second year pro smiled later, "the bunch just paused a little with about 300 meters to go and I went for a long effort. I tried the same thing on stage one and it didn't work and I only realised I had won this time when I got back to the bunch." Praise the lord for modern technology. Forty years ago, you suspect the win would have been awarded to the Lotto rider.
Although there was a small split in the bunch, overall nothing really changed, which means that the time trial specialists who have somehow managed to keep powder dry and bones intact will get a chance to claim a stage win and perhaps pack the top of the GC sheet after the 14.4km test around Ardooie after tomorrow's (Saturday) stage six.
The top 10 riders are all within 11 seconds of leader Tom Boonen and it's unlikely the Belgian national champion will still be in the leader's jersey after the time trial.
Being ever so slightly Anglophone biased, maybe Alex Dowsett (Sky), David Millar (Garmin) or Taylor Phinney (BMC) will make the podium. If nothing else we'll see how well comeback rider Alberto Contador, the soul of discretion at Eneco so far, is actually going ahead of the Vuelta. It'll be a revealing 14.4 kilometres, one way or the other, for a lot of reasons.
Eneco Tour 2012, stage five: Hoogerheide to Aalter, 184km
1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan in 4-10-20
2. Juregn Roelandts (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
3. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Ag2r
4. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
5. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
7. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing
8. Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar
9. Aidis Kruopis (Ltu) Orica-GreenEdge
10. Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator all same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 19-36-26
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 3 secs
3. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank at 4 secs
4. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan at 5 secs
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 7 secs
6. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at same time
7. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 9 secs
8. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank at 10 secs
9. Jens Mouris (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge at same time
10. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge at 11 secs
Nizzolo (right) takes the win
Giacomo Nizzolo wins the stage
Kittel makes it two at Eneco Tour as Boonen moves into lead
Bos takes Eneco stage three sprint
Contador builds form in Eneco Tour ahead of Vuelta
Contador back from ban in Eneco Tour
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